At its best, the act of creating is one of the greatest things a human being can experience. The process - designing, crafting, iterating, obsessing - is often arduous, but it’s also incredibly gratifying. It is hard though, and worse still when your creative pursuits are something you have to fit in around a ‘normal’ job. Not all hours are created equal, and just because you have three hours free after work one day does not mean you’ll get three hours of productive creativity.
In games, this is particularly problematic because you’re often also battling against your tools - your software, framework, engine, etc. I use Unity, which reduces the overheads of game development to the point where an enthusiast (like me!) can make games without a huge amount of money or experience. However, it still requires an understanding of the different approaches & algorithms that are used to implement different types of games. It can also be a real dick sometimes, but that’s a different story.
When I first started making games, it was because I had a new game idea that I wanted to birth into the world. If you’re trying to be creative and learn your tools, though, it’s… well it’s really fucking hard, basically, and it can be very demoralising. It was around that time that I remember reading a post on Gamasutra by Rami Ismail titled ‘Getting Experienced At Failure’. He wrote about how you’ll never make your ‘dream game’ as you intended without making a whole bunch - more than you might think - of really terrible ‘failures’.
There’s an anecdote which I can’t for the life of me find a source for, but it is a simple idea and backed by many creatives. An old pottery school asked students to create vases, and the teacher split the group up in two groups. One group was allowed to work on thinking up and creating one perfect vase for each semester, and the other group could only work on a vase for a week at most before destroying it. At the end of the year, they compared the vases created by both groups and found the vases made by the group that made a vase a week much more refined, stable and aesthetically pleasing.
The reasons for that are simple: one has more experience with success, and more experience with failure. Not just on a project level, but also on the level of tiny decisions made, of how long to bake the vase, what type of glass or clay to use and what material doesn’t mesh well with what. Failure is generally not a problem unless you fail to learn from it. It is a problem when you’ve gambled everything on something you don’t actually have any experience for.
I found the article really inspiring, and though I’ve yet to commit to his ‘game-a-week’ suggestion I did decide to focus on making smaller, less-original projects. Recently, I’ve been making clones of classic, simple games to get a feel for how they’re implemented and tuned. It’s really fun! And a great way to work through some of those smashed vases.